Peace Giver

I’ve kept journals on and off most of my adult life. For whatever reason, I haven’t journaled much at all in the last couple years. But I go through my old journals sometimes and today I found this one copied below. In it I’m recounting an experience I had with one resident in particular at an addiction facility in Nashville where I served as “spirituality teacher.”

In group today I was talking to the residents about peace. It wasn’t my plan, but it happened and I felt like I should stay with it. “The peace of God,” I explained, “surpasses understanding because it is not congruent with our circumstances. God’s peace can be experienced despite the turmoil or trials we may be experiencing in any given season of our life.”

After several minutes on my rabbit trail I asked for questions and feedback on what they were feeling. Two of the girls raised their hands and said they did not have peace; any peace. It was a foreign concept. One of the girls started to share. I’ve known her for a couple months now, and I know she’s endured much more than most, seeing her mom murdered, experiencing ritual abuse at the hands of a cult religion that actually claimed God was commanding the abuse, and much, much more. She wanted to be clear, that under no circumstances was she experiencing peace, nor had she ever. Not peace with her circumstances, not with her recovery, not with God, not in relationships, not with herself, nothing. My hand went to rest on her arm. This vulnerable honesty was not something that came natural to her and it was more than she’d said in group in weeks. Most addicts have to work very hard to open up and say what’s really going on inside. They’re used to masking their innermost feelings of pain and brokenness with drugs or alcohol. Her voice started to get very shaky, her face and neck blotchy, and the tears started falling as she struggled to get more words out. She told me that she didn’t know how to have peace with God when God was one of her triggers. She said she questions whether God could ever forgive her for praying while she was shooting up, for His help to find a vein. She said she used to pray for her mother to die, and then her mother was murdered. How could God forgive her for that? The tears fell. And fell. And so did my heart, breaking in a million pieces all over the floor.

That was the end of the entry. We became very close, that resident and I, and I was able to have a front row seat as God graciously and lovingly honored her desire to know the real Him, and experience His peace. Over a relatively short period of time I watched God flood her spirit with His, pouring out His Love and Light and Grace into her darkest places of pain.

I am still in awe as I recall the Sunday morning I had taken a group of residents to Cross Point church as was our usual practice. But that morning, after the message she leaned over and said, “I think I’m ready. Can we talk after the service?”

So I found an empty office and all the ladies, now friends and supporters of one another, joined together as she quietly vocalized that she wanted Jesus to take His place Savior in her life, and she wanted to know and experience God as the good, loving Father she had been learning about.

She asked me to pray, and I asked her how she felt about doing the praying, just expressing to God what she was feeling and desiring. Bravely she spoke out, eyes closed, talking to God through shaky tears, giving Him her heart, declaring Jesus to be her Savior, receiving Him as her closest friend and confidant, and choosing to follow Him with her life.

Praise God, faithful and loving, patient and kind. He knows what we need. He knows what our roadblocks are. He orchestrates moments of deliverance for every heart that aches for Love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out. The afflicted who have no one to help.” Psalm 72:12

 

 

Alone, Unworthy, Useless

I am a mess. I’m up I’m down, I’m laughing, I’m sobbing.

Oh this roller coaster of emotions…I am so tired.

I am useless. I am invisible.

I am unworthy of the blessings in my life. I can’t even be consistently grateful for all I do have without wishing for what I don’t.

Everyone else is accomplishing great things, what am I doing?

Will I ever just be okay? The kind of okay other people seem to be?

Will I ever thrive in this world instead of merely survive?

 I doubt I will ever experience love like I see it in my mind and desire it in my heart.

I am completely alone in these struggles. I can’t tell anyone the secrets I cover up with my smile. Forgiveness and grace is for other people. I would be cast out and run down if people only knew.

In this day and age where we sum up how fantastic we are in 140 characters or less, where we often blog about our light bulb moments, revelations, and breakthroughs, I thought I would take a minute to give voice to the other side of these revelations.

If we’re honest, if I’m honest, sometimes my real status updates would look much less like breakthroughs and much more like breakdowns. Like my thoughts above. Yes those are my thoughts. Thoughts I battled against just yesterday. And a week before that.

It’s so easy to buy into the lie that everyone else is doing better than we are and making these great strides in life that we are not. Social media has made this comparison game ridiculously easy to play, and it’s just as deadly as ever.

The truth is, while every single one of us experiences seasons of hard lessons, immense loneliness, regret, streams of tears, shattered dreams and painful consequences of sin that we would rather not put on display, one of the most powerful ways we can grow in community and unite in love is in sharing and confessing these pains and struggles.

We are each moving toward healing and forgiveness at a different pace. And the awesome beauty in that is that we are all able to be the encourager as well as the encouraged.

I have to remind myself regularly that it’s not realistic to believe I can live on cloud nine every day. And it’s not realistic or healthy to think that anybody else is.

Being content in all things has nothing to do with circumstances or the appearances of others’.  It has everything to do with what I’m basing my validation on and who I’m looking to for approval.

Today, if you’re battling feelings of inadequacy, or fears of not being enough in a world where doing always appears more plausible than being, I would just like to encourage you and tell you,

You are not alone.

AND… you are probably doing better than you think.

If you’re having a tough time praying, or finding your faith, even if it’s barely a whisper, whisper this:

“Jesus. Save me. I trust you. And Devil, in the name of Jesus, get behind me!”

Then hold on, if only by a thread, to the promise that God is with you. No matter how dark, He is there. It might not be the best thing for you that he remove you from your current circumstance or state of mind. His ways are not our ways. But He is loving you, comforting you, and asking that you trust Him.

I’ll trust Him with you today. Turn the world off. Appearances are fleeting. Don’t live by your emotions. They are fleeting too. He is the only one whose love remains the same. Yesterday, today, forever.

The Search for Significance

Have you ever tried so hard to do something and do it well, but nearly the entire time you felt as though you were fighting against the wind and climbing a mountain?

Have you ever watched someone work with such apparent ease at something they were seemingly born to do, going back and forth from various activities and responsibilities all the while energized and ready to do it again tomorrow with the same passion and zeal?

And it left you wondering what in the world was wrong with you that you were so drained of energy and passionless toward your own tasks and responsibilities?

  • Maybe you’ve been running a business but you you feel lifeless and unhappy and utterly stuck because you’ve put everything into something that isn’t flourishing like you expected and you think it’s too late to start dreaming again.
  • Maybe you’ve been busting your butt, determined to be the best stay at home mom ever but at night you cry yourself to sleep and fight off feelings of resentment.
  • Maybe you go back and forth to a job you just can’t get excited about no matter how hard you try, and you feel guilty because you’re not joyful for the simple fact that you have a job, still in your heart of hearts you know something is just not right.

Maybe it’s time to get out of the tree and into the water.

Maybe you’ve been judging your worth by your ability to do something you were  never designed to do.

Cut yourself some slack. You may just be a fish out of water or a monkey in the sea.

The power of one

Today I had lunch with my boss, Pete Wilson, and a boy he mentors through Preston Taylor Ministries in Nashville.  Tonight I’ve been studying C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity for my Biblical Worldview class. The section I will copy below really helped me wrap my head around this afternoon’s somewhat difficult experience.

I was pretty distraught after we had lunch.  The lunch room at the school was just insane.  Super loud, kids everywhere getting yelled at and glared at and reprimanded constantly by the principal who Pete and I were both totally scared of..  In this school, (very different from the small and quaint private elementary school I attended where the biggest dilemma was who got the solo in the church choir), most of the kids, I learned, probably don’t even know who their father is because he’s been long gone or in prison.  Most of them probably have a neglectful mother at best who may be addicted to drugs or selling themselves for drug money while their kids are in school.  The boy we were having lunch with has three siblings all by different fathers and his is in jail.

As I walked through the cafeteria and talked to and looked at some of the kids, it was so obvious they all just wanted some individual attention.  They wanted to be seen; heard; looked at, loved.  Each pair of eyes I looked into had this longing in them, this desire to be known, I swear it was so precious and innocent but at the same time my heart was breaking because I knew they might not get what they were so desperate for; not today, not tomorrow,  possibly not until they start trying to get it in the wrong ways; the ways that end up robbing you of far more than you ever imagined you even had to give.

I’ve worked with kids for 15 years and I see a little bit of that “love on me” look in most kids’ eyes, regardless of family income or home life circumstances.  The ones I don’t see it in are the ones who have parents who are actively present; presently healthy, and positively and lovingly leading by example. They have love, they know love, they don’t need to search for it.

I love this C.S. Lewis excerpt because although today made me sad and overwhelmed to think just how many kids in this country are neglected, beaten, abused, broken, dealing with drugs, immature parents with girlfriends and boyfriends and getting no love or guidance whatsoever, there is hope. Hope found in countless organizations who help these kids, countless churches who reach out and do something to positively impact young lives and can and do make a huge difference over time.  There are Christians who take seriously the fact that we are all one organism.  One body, many organs, intended to work together to keep the body alive and thriving.

The other encouraging reminder about Lewis’ passage is that God does truly have a plan for each and every one of us.  Even the little boy or girl who is struggling to feel worthy of love, who is desperate to just be known and seen and may very well get into huge trouble in their lives making horrible mistakes.  Even the strung out mothers prostituting themselves because they have zero hope of a different life.  God sees them. God knows them. He knew what their situation would be before they were ever born.

He also knows me and you, and our situation;  where we’ve been and where we’re at right now.  It’s our responsibility to help the other parts of the body that may not be so healthy, that may be quite sick; nurse them to health, get the process going, the seed planted, so that one day in the near or distant future, they will be in a position to help others precisely because of every painful circumstance they endured and the fact that it was treated with love by one of us.  Someone just a little healthier, a little stronger.

What can we do today?  Even if it’s just pray, it’s never just praying.  God honors the prayers of a faithful believer. How about contacting Preston Taylor Ministries, or Safe Haven, or the Rescue Mission, or call your church and see who they parter with and how you can get involved.

It’s not a chore, it’s a privilege.  It’s not a problem it’s an opportunity.  It’s an investment in the body we are all a part of.  One part gets stronger, we all get stronger.

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